Monday, August 02, 2004
The Battle Lines Have Been Drawn
If you're sick of political analysis, go here and see if you can save the White House.
RESETTING THE CLOCK. It may seem like we've been goofing off since the convention, but in reality we've been reading the dozens of opinion pieces about what the Democrats and Senator Kerry were trying to accomplish in Boston and what, if anything, they have accomplished. All our reading has surfaced two articles which we find representative of the two poles of thought prevailing in the media. The lefthand pole thinks Kerry has succeeded in making himself a credible candidate on national security issues. Any of a dozen articles would serve to illustrate this viewpoint, but we've chosen Trudy Rubin's essay in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer because it skips the stylistic persiflage and lays out a nuts-and-bolts case for Kerry as commander-in-chief. We also like the title: Worldview -- Kerry has grasp that Bush doesn't. That's pretty unambiguous. So is her basic premise:
The main question is not whether John Kerry is a nice guy. It's whether his policies are more suited for the country's security needs over the next four years. That's what people were trying to divine from the Democrats' convention in Boston.
After watching the speech, talking to Kerry foreign policy advisers - and visiting Iraq three times since the war - I'd say the answer is yes. Here's why:
The Bush antiterror policy has lost its way. Yes, the President does what he says, but what he says and does has led us into a defensive position in the struggle against terrorism.
Our military is bogged down in a guerrilla war against Iraq that hasn't weakened al-Qaeda. Just the opposite. The terrorist organization has found a new base in an unstable Iraq.
Anti-Americanism in the Mideast has never
been greater. Iraq's instability and Bush's abandonment of efforts to
promote Israel-Palestinian peace are a recruitment ad for al-Qaeda.
And, no, Ms Rubin's matter-of-fact assessment of the situation does
not mean she's chalking it up to bad luck or the predictable chaos of
international politics. All of the ills she describes are George Bush's
The Bush administration's hype on Iraq - expanding Saddam Hussein's real threat to the Mideast into a nuclear threat against the U.S. mainland - has made much of the world cynical about the antiterrorist struggle. Most Europeans and Arabs don't believe in the reality of this battle against Islamist jihadists. That makes the effort much harder.
If the United States is to rally other countries to this long-term goal - and convince their citizens - a more credible U.S. leader is required. The world's growing anti-Americanism, which hampers any global alliance against terrorism, is focused on the persona and policies of George W. Bush.
Kerry has stressed over and over that he
will rebuild our alliances and repair the breeches within NATO. On
Thursday he said, "We need a president who has the credibility to bring
our allies to our side and share the burden." He is overly optimistic
about what the allies would contribute, especially in Baghdad. But he
would have a far better chance than Bush of persuading our NATO allies
to do more in Afghanistan, and take on new missions outside Europe.
Kerry advisers say he would push for needed reforms in NATO and the
Wiithout wasting time disputing her highly debatable
characterizations, we'll simply highlight the collapsing confidence in
the final paragraph of the quote. Up to this point, she's been marching
briskly toward a seemingly rational conclusion that we need someone
better than George Bush. But just when we expect to learn why Kerry is
so much better, she acknowledges that Kerry's best credential is that
he has "stressed over and over" that he will make our so-called friends
like us more. Then she admits that he is "overly optimistic" and
stumbles to the end of her thought with the lame asterisk that "Kerry's
advisers say" he might try to secure "reforms" in the U.N. and NATO.
Hmmm. Before, it sounded like she was saying all the obstructionism in
the U.N. and NATO was Bush's fault. So why do they need reforms? Isn't the big
idea here that Kerry himself is the necessary reform?
Despite Ms. Rubin's breezy exposition of Bush's failures, her essay
winds up at a different destination than her tone promises. It's really
an exercise in wishful thinking. We don't like the way things are. We
don't like it that people around the world are trashing America at
every whipstitch. We don't like it that America is still a terror
target and nobody else seems to care. We don't like it that winning the
war on terror hasn't been a neat little miniseries which could be
wrapped up before the audience got bored. And here's a guy who says he
can make it all better by applying his impeccable continental manners
at the diplomatic table. Yeah, maybe we don't completely believe that,
but it sure would be NICE, wouldn't it? Wouldn't it?
We said that Ms. Rubin's piece was representative. It is. All the enthusiasm for Kerry is
wishful thinking. That's why there are never any specifics. No
specifics in his nomination speech. He didn't utter the term 'Islamic
fascism' once. He didn't mention exactly which allies have to be on our
side before an American action is not unilateral. (His rhetorical
history would indicate that 'multilateral' means with the support of
France and Germany, while 'unilateral' means without the support of
France and Germany. That's a helluva big picture view, isn't it?) Yes,
he said he would double special ops forces and add another division to
the army, but what for? We aren't ever going to fight another war
unless we have to. What does
that mean? After the suitcase nuke levels Los Angeles? He didn't say.
And there have been no real specifics in the various pro-Kerry articles
following the convention. There are only vague aspirations for a
foreign relations rapprochement designed to substitute European troops
for American so that our boys can come home where they belong. No one's
used the term "peace with honor," but with all the Vietnam nostalgia
floating around the country like a cloud of methane, perhaps we can be
excused for being reminded of that old figleaf for surrender. It's as
if the war on terror itself can't be justified unless the rest of the
world agrees to it. If they don't, we should forget about it and cope
with whatever happens whenever it happens.
...after being for-and-against the war for the last year according to political necessity, Kerry seems to have settled on a position of doing pretty much what Bush is doing while simultaneously spending more time on the blower to Kofi, Jacques and Gerhard. If I were a principled anti-war Democrat, I'd be furious.
But they're not. Because the real distinction is not between pro- and anti-war, but between September 11 Americans and September 10 Americans. The latter group is a coalition embracing not just the hardcore Bush haters - for whom, as the opening of Fahrenheit 9/11 makes plain, it all goes back to chads in Florida - but the larger group of voters who've been a little stressed out by the epic nature of politics these last three years and would like a quieter life. That's what John Kerry's offering them: a return to September 10.That's the current campaign scene in a nutshell. Trudy Rubin and her brothers and sisters on the left want to repeal not only George W. Bush, but everything that's happened since election day 2000. And they think that maybe if we just start acting normal on the world stage, meaning the way we acted before September 11, maybe the world stage will start acting normal too. The problem is, it's not going to happen. The world stage wasn't in such hot shape before 9/11. The U.N. was already engaged in the greatest and most costly institutional corruption in history, the French and Russians were already making dirty deals with the Iraqis, Jimmy Carter had already doomed the U.S. to the current nuclear stalemate with North Korea, and al Qaeda and its affiliates had already killed hundreds of Americans with impunity. The nations whose anti-Americanism we didn't notice until G. W. Bush was in office didn't much care about all that then, and they're not going to start to care about it if Kerry resumes the Clinton foreign policy of 1992-2000. Nor is Islamic fascism going to go away just because another American president starts insisting on 'serious' new talks with Yassir Arafat.
Worse, in their haste to crown a candidate behind whom all the faithful could unite against the hated Bush, the Democrats carelessly selected the most blatant of their army of panderers. Again, Steyn cuts right to the chase:
In another perilous time -
1918 - Lord Haig wrote of Lord Derby: "D is a very weak-minded fellow I
am afraid and, like the feather pillow, bears the marks of the last
person who has sat on him." It's subtler than that with Kerry: you
don't have to sit on him; just the slightest political breeze, and his
pillow billows in the appropriate direction. His default position is
the conventional wisdom of the Massachusetts Left: on foreign policy,
foreigners know best; on trade, the labour unions know best; on
government, bureaucrats know best; on defence, graying ponytailed
nuclear-freeze reflex anti-militarists know best; on the wine list, he